By Betsy Morais
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 16, 2007
Community Board 9 tackled local controversies and nominated officers for next year at its Thursday evening meeting.
In the wake of Tuesday’s City Planning Commission meeting, CB9 member Walter South predicted that the commission would pass CB9’s 197-a development plan for West Harlem, except for the part that concerns Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion zone. The commission would be omitting the “hole in the middle of the doughnut,” South said.
South conveyed his dissatisfaction with the commission’s evaluations of Manhattanville zoning proposals and the lack of “guts” he senses in their failure to sufficiently condemn Columbia’s potential use of eminent domain.
For the second straight month, the board clashed over the role of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation, which is negotiating a community benefits agreement with Columbia to accompany the expansion plan. Anti-expansion activist Tom Kappner, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, accused the LDC of playing into Columbia’s hands. He cited the closed-door nature of its negotiations and said that qualified candidates for the group had been ignored in favor of individuals more sympathetic to Columbia. “The fix is in,” he said. “They are fixing a price for the abandonment of the 197-a.”
In response, CB9 Second Vice-Chair and LDC president Patricia Jones defended the group, calling Kappner’s remarks a “litany of mischaracterizations.” She emphasized that the LDC’s role is to negotiate for community benefits, not to make land-use demands. “The mission is not to enforce the 197-a plan,” she said. “There are obviously those on the LDC and elsewhere who believe that Columbia’s expansion should be stopped, and that is fine, but that is not the mission of the LDC.”
CB9 also heard from developers for a Boys & Girls Club project proposed for the site of a vacant school building on 145th Street. In addition to a state of the art club facility, the plans includes a post office and co-op apartment units. Board members raised concerns about the soundness of the club’s finances and the affordability of the housing. “There are very serious questions about this project and we should have a fair opportunity to question,” CB9 member Michael Palma said.
But Board member Vicky Gholson expressed frustration with her quibbling colleagues. “People come before this board, they’re treated like hustlers!” she said.
Later, the board held nomination procedures for executive CB9 positions for the coming year. Patricia Jones was the sole nominee for chair to replace Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, who cannot run again due to term limits.